Há Caracóis ! We Have Snails on the Menu !

Posted by Marianne Hoesen on Friday, March 27, 2015 Under: food and drink


What Escargots are in France, caracóis are in Portugal. Caracois, Portuguese snails, are smaller than their French cousins and many locals as well as foreigners, absolutely love them.  You can only eat them during spring and summer, since it is a seasonal dish.  While snails are considered a delicacy in France, here in Portugal it is a dish that everybody eats.  

Look out for the sign:  "Há caracois" and give it a try. Usually they are served with buttered bread and they go really well with a nice cool beer. You either suck them out of their house, or use a toothpick to catch them. 


If you want to prepare them by yourself - here is the recipe:

Buy or search for 1 kg of fresh caracóis.  The ultimate thing is of course to get up early and walk the countryside yourself in search of the small snails.  

If you collect some free range snails, you first have to get them ready for the pot. Here in the Algarve and likely around the country, snails undergo a ‘cleaning process’ which means keeping them in burlap or net bags (or another suitable container from which they cannot escape) for approximately 14 days, adding some thyme and wheat flour or slices of patatoe to clean them from toxins and to fatten them a little. Only then are they ready to eat.  This procedure is not necessary if you buy them.

On the day they are being cooked, the caracóis first need to sit in water just covering them, for about 30 minutes to remove the crusty covering on the opening of the shell.  Be careful: the snails get really active and you have to make sure they cannot escape.  Once all the snails have come out of their shell, wash them in cold water with a little vinegar, until the water drains clear, this should take about 3 good washings, and shells no longer feel slippery. Throw away any snails that stay in the shell.

Finally place them in a large pot with water just covering the snails and add a lemon peel, 1 stalk of dried oregano, 1 stalk of fresh rosemary or thyme, 1 hot chili-pepper, 5 cloves of garlic and a stock cube. *Important: Do not add salt during the first 10 minutes, as snails will retreat back into their shells from the salt. 

Let snails cook uncovered on medium heat, for about 20 minutes. A large bubble of foam will rise while cooking, this is normal and will subside when snails are finally cooked. You can use a larger pot to compensate for the bubbling over.

Traditionally caracóis are eaten on May 1st in celebration of Portuguese labour day. Serve them on large tray or in individual bowls with an accompanying empty bowl for the shells. To get the snails out of their shells you can use a large headed pin or tooth pick. This is finger food, so be sure to also include lots of napkins!  Serve with a cold bear and buttered bread.

In : food and drink 

Tags: portuguese snails  caracois 

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About Me

Marianne Hoesen Born in the deep south of The Netherlands, I moved to the central Algarve in 2007, together with my partner and 2 dogs. In the meantime we added some goats and chickens and are living a peaceful life in the rolling hills of the rural south of Portugal. I invite you to read a bit in my blog and to leave a comment afterwards. Also check out the holiday accommodations mentioned elsewhere in this website.


Algarve Portugal
café Portugal, bica
Esteva, rock rose, Algarve
sun, beach, Algarve
real cork real wine
beach Algarve
folklore dance Algarve
chicken piri piri

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